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New Method to Assemble Nanoscale Elements Could Transform Data Storage Industry

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Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst say that a new, innovative technique in which nanoscale elements precisely assemble themselves over large surfaces could lead to significant improvements in data storage media. "I expect that the new method we developed will transform the microelectronic and storage industries, and open up vistas for entirely new applications," says UMass Amherst professor Thomas Russell. Russell created the new approach with UC Berkeley professor Ting Xu. Xu says the density achievable with the new technology could potentially allow the contents of 250 DVDs to be stored on a surface the size of a quarter.

Russell and Xu discovered a new way to create block copolymers, chemically dissimilar polymer chains that join together by themselves. Xu says the molecules in block copolymers self-assemble into an extremely exact, equidistant pattern when spread on the surface. For over a decade, researchers have been trying to exploit this characteristic for semiconductor manufacturing, but have been limited because the order starts to break down as the size increases. Russell and Xu overcame this problem by laying the film of block copolymers onto the surface of a commercially available sapphire crystal, which, when cut at an angle and heated to 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Centigrade for 24 hours, reorganizes its surface into a highly ordered pattern that can be used to guide the self-assembly of block polymers.

Russell and Xu were able to achieve defect-free arrays of nanoscopic elements with features as small as 3 nanometers, creating a density of 10 terabits per square inch.

From UC Berkeley News
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